Benchmarking Innovations for Sustainable Agri-food systems under climate change in the Mediterranean Region: what do ICARDA and the CGIAR have to offer?
Agricultural and food systems in the Mediterranean region face complex challenges including water scarcity, rainfall variability, increased temperatures, land degradation, desertification, high population growth and migration, widespread poverty, malnutrition and unemployment. This region is expected to be among those worst affected by climate change, further exacerbating the existing situation, resulting in reduced agricultural productivity, increased poverty, higher dependence on food imports, and increased competition for scarce natural resources. These constraints also present opportunities that must be analysed and scaled in the frame of the diverse range of agro-ecosystems: rainfed, irrigated, agro-pastoral and desert farming. Throughout ICARDA’s more than 40 years of research-for-development in the region, with its NARS partners, it is clear that there is a large, diverse and underutilized basket of proven technologies (on crops, livestock, soil, water, energy, food technology, etc) which can address one or several of the issues, provided they are leveraged by appropriate institutions, and support policy transformation and markets in a food system approach. A typical example is the case of food legumes (chickpea, faba bean, lentils) – marginalized in agricultural and food systems globally over the past decades despite their potential role in a One Health Approach from soil to biodiversity and human needs. To leverage impact and identify solutions, we need to recognize and capitalize on: (i) the diversity of agro-ecological systems across the Mediterranean region; (ii) the role of crop diversity for sustainable food systems; (iii) the role of small ruminants in nutritional and economic resilience to climate change and variability; (iv) the systemic nature of innovation to address sustainability in the Nexus Nutrition-Water-Employment-Natural resources; and (v) the potential for regional collaboration across the Mediterranean Basin. The DryArc Interface, as a collective effort of CGIAR centers, supports this Collective Intelligence in the Mediterranean region for sustainable innovation in the agri-food systems.